What Does it Mean to Have Dashboard Knee After a Car Accident?

A dashboard injury happens when damage is caused to the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) of the knee. This ligament lays deep within the knee structure and attaches the posterior of the tibia to the femur. The PCL helps prevent unnatural backward movement of the lower leg. Dashboard knee refers to the PCL getting hurt as a result of the knee being forced abruptly against the dashboard of the car during an accident. It is recommended that anyone who sustained a potential knee injury, gets checked out by a knee doctor in the days to follow. 

Dashboard Knee Explained

The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) can sustain damage if the knee is bent and the tibial gets directly hit, causing the shin bone to be shoved backwards below the knee. If enough force is applied and the tibia is pushed back past it’s limit, the PCL can get torn or ruptured. This type of injury gets its name because during a vehicle collision, the passenger’s or driver’s bent leg can sustain a hefty blow if it collides with the dashboard. 

Indicators of PCL Injury

The symptoms commonly associated with dashboard knee include mild to moderate pain, swelling, and knee instability. A knee doctor is likely to look for a dent in the patella tendon, as this is an indication a posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury has occurred. The exam is done by having the person lay on his or her back, lifting the injured leg into the air, and flexing with a 90-degree angle. The doctor may notice a posterior tibia sag and indent of the patella tendon due to the gravitational pull. 

PCL Grades and Treatment

PCL injuries are rated based on a grade of 1-3. Grade 1 is when the PCL was sprained or partially torn, grade 2 is an isolated complete tear, and grade 3 is a tear along with other ligament damage. The grade is determined by the degree of laxity during the examination. 

The treatment plan for a posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury may vary depending on the severity. A doctor may suggest using crutches, icing, and elevating the knee area to reduce swelling and pain. After symptoms have resided a fair amount, physical therapy can help restore strength and knee mobility. For more serious cases, surgical reconstruction may be needed. However, currently such a procedure is controversial and is typically only suggested for extreme cases of grade 3 injuries.

Future Complications

A car accident victim that doesn’t seek medical attention right away for their knee injury, could be making things worse without even realizing it. Many people may try to heal injuries on their own at home until they can no longer stand the pain. While some knee injuries can heal with rest and avoiding unnecessary pressure to the area, others may need medical intervention to get better. To prevent future complications such as chronic pain or instability, victims of vehicle collisions should consult with a knee pain doctor in Frederick, MD, such as from the Pain & Spine Specialist of Maryland, LLC, for an official dashboard knee diagnosis.